The MOL Blitz article discusses the current focus of the Ministry on the protection of New and Young Workers as part of the Ministry program to strengthen the protection of Vulnerable Workers in Ontario workplaces. We note that in many workplaces we can’t rely solely on training, PPE or good luck – these workers will get most of their protection from competent supervision.
Competent supervision is not just an empty term. The employer has a duty, when appointing a supervisor, to appoint a “competent person” (Section 25 (2) (c)), and that term is defined in Section 1 of the Act. A competent person is one who can organize the work because of his or her knowledge, training and experience, who is familiar with the Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and who knows about any actual or potential danger to health or safety in the workplace.
Supervisors have a duty under the Act to talk to workers about workplace hazards and to provide instruction (S 27(2)). Supervisors who don’t do this are not meeting their obligations under the Act. Supervisors who can’t do this are not competent under the Act, and this becomes a failure on the part of the employer.
In our careers most of us, at one time or another, have worked for a supervisor who couldn’t meet the requirements of the Act. The problem now is that everyone understands that proper supervision is recognized as the most important workplace tool in preventing injuries and fatalities involving new workers. How long since your supervisors have had any training? The Act and the regulation change every year – are they up to date? Processes, equipment, materials, etc., change even more frequently – do they know about all of the hazards?